“The hardest part of my entire cancer experience was calling my Dad to tell him. He had already lived the nightmare of losing his wife, my Mom to breast cancer 27 years earlier, leaving him with two young daughters to raise. I was only six and my sister was three. We rarely talk about my Mom, her cancer struggle or death. I was filled with paralyzing fear that telling him would bring back a flood of horrible memories. Yet, when I did tell him, my Dad was awesome–he was calm and reassuring. Over time, I think my diagnosis has brought us closer. In addition, my Mum (step-mom) was just as supportive and open. In a weird way, my diagnosis brought healing to some open wounds left from my Mom’s passing. My sister went through genetic testing last year, and she is negative, which has been a huge relief for our family.
When I look at photos from before my diagnosis, it’s uncanny how much I look like my Mom. My hair was still full and long from pregnancy and breastfeeding, so the similarities in pictures of my Mom and I were scary. I stare at the pictures and can’t help but imagine that somewhere deep in both of our bodies cancer cells were growing and stirring, totally unbeknownst to us.
A few months after my husband Matt and I started dating, I told him about my BRCA (Breast Cancer) status. It took a few glasses of wine one night for me to break the news to him about my Mom and my risks of getting cancer, and I told him if he was not interested in a future relationship with me, I would understand. Instead, Matt gave me a long hug and let me know he was there no matter what. Eight years later we are still going strong! We fast-tracked our wedding and family plans because of my BRCA status. My doctors recommended IVF versus waiting to get pregnant because of my cancer risk. Thank God they did because I have incredible 4 year-old twins, as well as, 7 embryos “on ice.” We struggle with our family plan now because if cancer was out of the equation, we both know we would have a larger family. Instead we constantly weigh the health risks of another pregnancy, the financial burden of a surrogate/adoption and the possibility of Matt being left to raise our family without me in the future. Also, we actually relocated back to Pittsburgh because we know that it’s important for our kids and Matt to have the stability and support of extended family if I ever need further treatment or if I am not here to raise the twins.
Every milestone with my kids brings tears to my eyes because I hope that I’m here with them as they get older – or even to see them go to kindergarten. Every Christmas, I cry putting away the decorations because I hope that I’ll be here the following year to unpack them again. Matt and I don’t really talk about where we’ll live when we retire or even what we want to do for our 40th birthday. We live life for today because we both know that life can change with one bad scan, and we’ll be back on the crazy cancer rollercoaster.” – Jenny W.